Jered Weaver did not fail in his first test in a big league ballpark yesterday as he mowed down the UCLA Bruins, 3-0, in the Aztec Invitational at San Diego's new Petco Park. The 8th-ranked Long Beach State Dirtbags (12-4) have now beaten the Bruins (11-7) in eight of their last 11 meetings.
Weaver (6-0) allowed one hit and struck out 15 for the second straight game. The All-American righthander has now recorded double-digits in Ks in each of his last five outings. He struck out the side in the first inning again (as well as the seventh) and whiffed eight of the nine Bruins in the order, including Brett McMillan and Matt Thayer--the third and fifth hitters--all three times.
Of Weaver's career-high 120 pitches, an amazing 84 went for strikes (70%). The tall junior didn't show any signs of fatigue, retiring the final 10 batters he faced--eight via strikeouts. (Box Score)
Weaver's Stat Line vs. UCLA:
IP H R ER BB K
Weaver 8 1 0 0 1 15
The potential number one draft pick has now given up no more than one run in each of his six contests and has allowed three or fewer hits in five of them. Opponents are "hitting" just .117 against him.
IP H R ER BB K ERA W-L
Weaver 43.2 17 4 4 5 70 0.82 6-0
Weaver made his pitch late Friday afternoon in front of Padres general manager Kevin Towers and scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton. The Padres have the first pick in this year's draft and are in a position to add Weaver to their corps of young, talented starting pitchers.
Bill Gayton (L) and Kevin Towers (R)
Photo credit: John Sandoval/MLB.com
Gayton, a dead ringer for Terry Francona, was born in South Dakota, coincidentally the same state as the Red Sox manager. As a player, Gayton made it as high as A-ball in the White Sox organization. Dave Dombrowski, who was with the ChiSox at the time, hired him as a scout at the age of 22. Gayton, now in his fourth year with the Padres, has been in the scouting profession for more than 20 years.
In an interview with Baseball Prospectus correspondent Craig Elsten last year, Gayton said the Padres "pay close attention to the Cape Cod League and Team USA statistics". If so, one has to believe the Padres are all over Weaver.
Team USA Totals:
IP H R ER BB K ERA W-L
Weaver 48 21 2 2 11 36 0.38 4-1
Weaver was named Baseball America's Player of the Summer after hurling an unprecedented 45 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings for Team USA and fashioning a single-season record 0.38 ERA. In Weaver's last 91 2/3 innings pitched for Long Beach State and Team USA, he has allowed only 38 hits, 6 runs, and 16 walks, while striking out 106 batters en route to a 10-1 record and a 0.59 ERA.
Gayton told David Hammel of the North County Times:
(Weaver's) a pitcher. He changes speeds, mixes it up. He's fun to watch. He has the mound presence that you look for, along with confidence and the ability to get people out.
Gayton, who was featured in a three-part series on mlb.com prior to the 2002 draft (Part I/Part II/Part III), told me after the game that Weaver was under consideration as the Padres #1 pick but said there was "still a lot of time between now and the draft".
I asked Gayton if he thought Weaver could pitch in the majors in 2005, and he nodded "yes". However, he believes Weaver will be in no hurry to sign with or without Scott Boras acting as his agent due to the number of innings that he will have pitched at that point over the past year. As an example, Mark Prior, after being drafted second by the Chicago Cubs in the 2001 draft, waited until August 23 to sign and didn't pitch professionally at all that year. He was assigned to the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx of the AA Southern League at the beginning of the following season, then promoted to the Iowa Cubs of the AAA Pacific Coast League before making his major league debut on May 22, 2002--less than one year after the draft.
Gayton and the Padres were unsuccessful signing Matt Harrington, another Boras client in 2001. Harrington had turned down a reported $4 million offer from the Colorado Rockies the previous year, switched agents from Tommy Tanzer to Boras and promptly turned down a reported $1.25 million major league contract. Harrington was last drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 24th round of the 2003 draft.
In hindsight, the Rockies and Padres are lucky Harrington didn't take them up on their offers. Everybody makes mistakes. Even Weaver. Gayton brought up the fact that Jered "got away with some high pitches", probably referring to a high fastball that UCLA third baseman Brandon Averill pulled foul into the left field seats and a hanging curveball that catcher Chris Denove drove to left for a long out in back-to-back at bats in the third inning. Nonetheless, Gayton was impressed with Weaver hitting 94-mph on the speed gun in his eighth and final inning.
Weaver's performance reminded me of a line made famous by John Lennon (fractured grammar and all) after The Beatles performed "Get Back" on the roof of Apple's headquarters in London.
"I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition."
Like The Beatles, you can rest assured that Weaver has more than "passed the audition".
Monday's Entry: Jered Weaver vs. Mark Prior.